Say What????

When was the last time you really listened to song lyrics from “oldies” songs? No really…truly listened to them? My sister recently had a post on Facebook, referencing the song “Hot Stuff” from Donna Summer, and commented that if our parents had truly listened to those words, well, the high school pep band would NEVER have been allowed to play it. That got me to thinking, what other songs might have lyrics that we never really thought about (maybe because we misheard them, and didn’t have Google at our fingertips to look them up?) So I went in search of lyrics of some of the songs I’ve listened to. Keep in mind I’m a child of the 70’s, I LOVE that music. Oh boy, did I find some online gold!music-notes-clip-art-musical_note_3_clip_art_12287

Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” always was so innocuous, until I heard a station play the album cut of the song, which was not the general radio play version. I about drove off the road when I heard “I had a taste of the real world, when I went down on you girl”. No wonder stations didn’t play the album cut! Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” isn’t much better either.

“Moonight Feels Right” by Starbuck always sounded like he was singing about having sex, although apparently he wrote the song about a woman he wanted to date. He fell for her photo and registered at the college she attended to meet her. After asking her out for the third time, she accepted and that’s when “the wind blew some luck in my direction” Bruce Blackman, the songwriter says. The little novelty song took off in 1976. Yet, when I hear the end of the second verse, it sounds anything but innocent. Next time you hear it, see what you think. I guess he was successful as he married her. But “Afternoon Delight”? Yeah, no way was that innocent.

On the other hand, the guys in Supertramp sang about not getting anything in “Breakfast in America”, with “Take a look at my girlfriend, She’s the only one I got, Not much of a girlfriend, Never seem to get a lot”. Poor guys. I really feel for you.

Back in high school, we drove 8 miles to be able to go roller skating in the next town over. (I realize there are probably a few of you reading this thinking “roller skates? What’s that?” Well, think Roller Blades, but in a rectangular shape instead of in-line.) I can still remember one of our favorite skating songs was Foghat’s “Slow Ride”. Um yeah, about that? The chorus goes like this: “Slow down, go down”. Heck, it was so popular that years later it made it into the soundtrack of “Dazed and Confused”, which is a hoot of a movie about the last day of school in 1975. Not only is it’s soundtrack incredible, but it has up and coming young stars Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey, but I digress. If our parents knew we were skating to that song, we’d probably never have been let out of the house.

“NIght Moves” by Bob Seger is exactly what it sounds like, but I didn’t always quite catch all of that first verse so I looked it up. For those of you who weren’t exactly sure what he was singing about, here ya go:

I was a little too tall
Could’ve used a few pounds
Tight pants point hardly renowned
She was a black-haired beauty with big dark eyes
And points all her own sitting way up high
Way up firm and high

Journey and Steve Perry (yep, I’m cheating, they’re the 80’s. ) “Anyway You Want It”. Nuff said. But I still love listening to Perry, no matter what.

I know, if you go looking for trouble you surely will find it, right? Kind of like “Lookin’ for Love in all the Wrong Places”.

How about The Partridge Family? I have to admit I had a crush on David Cassidy as a teen, and maybe even a little still as an adult too in spite of his problems as an adult. But completely clean, innocent lyrics that were family friendly? Here’s “Summer Days”:

David_Cassidy

Photo source  Wikimedia Commons 

I feel the sunlight on my face
When I just close my eyes and I trace
The footpath to your daddy’s summer place
Where we spent our early summer days

The hill we climbed that went on forever
We reached the top of the world together

Yeah, you gave your love to me and I remember perfectly
High above all time and space and I remember summer days

Um, yeah. Innocent. Or maybe it’s me. No matter, I’ll still sing this and other Patridge Family songs, or any of the ones I mentioned above out at the top of my lungs, and have fun doing it.

What are your favorite old guilty pleasure songs? Share some of them with me, I’d love to hear some other examples!

 

 

Advertisements

Saving on Prescriptions

No matter which side of the political aisle you sit on, and regardless of whether or not you support or want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, one thing that I think most everyone seems to be in agreement on is that the cost of many of our prescription drugs has gotten out of hand. If you listen to the drug companies, they’ll give you dozens of reasons why that is, and while one or two may have some (and I use some very loosely) validity, most hold water about as well as your grandmother’s colander.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 9.01.54 AM

Illustration courtesy of www.wellnesscorporatesolutions.com

What amazes me however, is that for all of our ability to jump on the internet and rant about it, or tell heart wrenching stories about knowing someone who is rationing medication because they can’t afford it or worse, that someone died because they couldn’t afford their medication, there is still a gap in getting information out to the general public on how to find help to pay for medications. This is an issue that affects so many people, regardless of the kind of job you have, or your insurance because today so many employer driven health plans are high deductible plans, meaning deductibles need to be paid before the co-pays kick in and medications are a part of paying deductibles. I don’t know if it’s just that people don’t think there is anything out there for assistance, or it just doesn’t occur to them to look, but there are a number of ways that you may be able to find help with paying for medications, and I’ll share a few of them here that I’ve learned about. Please understand that this list isn’t an exhaustive list, nor am I receiving any kind of remuneration for mentioning any resources. Rather I’m an RN and former case manager, and want to try to share a little of what I’ve learned over the past months and years.

One of my “go-to” resources is GoodRx. This is a free site/app that is available to anyone, and you may have even seen one of their displays in your doctor’s office (their cards have a yellow strip across the top). While GoodRx will tell you it’s not insurance, for most of us out here it sort of acts a lot like it. To get an ID number than can be used by everyone in the family, just grab one of the cards, or go to their website and sign up for free. Once you sign up you can download the app and log into that and you’re all set to go, it will link to the account you signed up to online and provide the ID number back to the app. Show the number on your app to your pharmacy. They will run your prescription through GoodRx and apply any discounts. Some are more substantial than others, and you should only have to do it the first time you fill a prescription with it. I generally ask if the price of the drugs seems higher than I expect, just to be sure as once in a while they forget, but most of the time they do it automatically as it’s in the system.

After downloading the app on your phone, you can enter the name and dose of any drug, add your zip code and it will look up the cost of the drug at pharmacies in your area (you can also do this on the website). Where that can be helpful is if you’re sitting in your doctor’s office, and you know you have something that’s expensive, your doctor can send that prescription to the pharmacy where you’ll get the deepest discount.

Two others that you can try are SingleCare.com and Easydrugcard.com. While I haven’t used either of these, I do know they are out there. An internet search on “discount pharmacy cards” or “discount prescription program” will bring up others as well. One caveat to using GoodRx, and I suspect the other programs, is that you can only use them in conjunction with commercial insurance (meaning, you need to be insured with your employer). If you have some sort of state plan like Medical Assistance or Medicare, you generally can’t use the discount cards.

Another way you may be able to save on the cost of medication is directly from the manufacturer. I recently wanted to refill a medication that I knew would cost me over $600 with the discount card! Since that was cost-prohibitive for us right now, I went to the manufacturer’s website, and found a coupon there that would allow me to get the medication for $15!  If I remember correctly, there was a limit on the number of refills per year, but that was fine as I don’t refill it frequently so I would have been able to work with that. (I ended up not using it, as we had an insurance change before I could fill it.)

A final possibility is with your pharmacy directly, and this was a new one to me. You can’t turn on television, radio or hop on the internet these days without hearing about the Opioid crisis, and some of the steps that are being taken to combat it are moving closer to our everyday lives. Some pharmacies are now not honoring the discount cards for any drugs that would fall into what the FDA has classified as a “scheduled” drug, meaning they watch how it’s dispensed more closely as it has some level of potential for abuse. There are five levels of scheduled drugs, with things like Heroin and Ecstasy being Level I and Robitussin with Codeine being Level V, to give you an idea. However, I know of at least one pharmacy that developed their own discount coupon so that their clients would still be able to afford the medication.

I know that this isn’t an exhaustive help list, and folks are still likely to fall through the giant crevices in our healthcare system. But please, share this with everyone you know, so that if it helps just a few people better afford their medication, it’s worth it.

Winter Driving Delights

If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you know that I live in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, 12 million mosquitos and snow. Depending on the year, we might get a little, or maybe like ocean waves, every 7th year or so, a lot. (I don’t know, I made that up. Don’t look it up.) But whether it’s a little or a lot, we always get some, and one thing is always a given: the first few snowfalls will always confound drivers, because of course none of us can remember how to drive in snow from the last time we did 6 or 8 months ago. In a typical year, however, after those first few snowfalls, we usually settle in nicely and have figured it out.

Something is different about this year, and I’m not sure what. I don’t know if it’s because we’re getting higher than usual amounts of late season storms, or if it’s because when it’s not snowing it’s been absurdly cold. You may have even seen stories of folks who ended up in the ER because they tried to turn boiling water into snow. Apparently everyone has seen the beautiful photo or video someone shot of a woman doing this while she was backlit against either a sunrise or sunset, throwing the boiling water over her head in an arc. Now everyone wants to do this and get a photo. The problem with it is, when not done properly it’s a wonderful way to get first, and even second degree burns. Take a note: DON’T DO THIS!! AND DON’T LET YOUR KIDS DO THIS, NOT MATTER HOW MUCH THEY BEG!! Throw the water away from you. It’s still a really cool science experiment.

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 8.06.56 AMI also wonder if we suddenly have had a bumper crop of idiots that have moved here, or if I’m just becoming an old fuddy duddy, but it seems to me with each new storm, I see really stupid people out who have no business driving. With all due respect to Bill Engvall, I really want to say to them, “Here’s your sign”.

I started a part time job last fall and work Friday nights until 9. It seems like there have been several storms on those nights, and so I as I’m cautiously driving home, appropriately slowing down on snow-packed roads, there are cars whizzing by me at normal highway speeds. I have all-wheel drive in my car and I’m not comfortable going that fast on a snow-packed road, because I don’t know where there may be a slippery or icy spot, and even though I have anti-lock brakes, who the heck wants to use them? Last Friday, in the midst of yet another storm, I counted at least 6 places where I could see cars had either gone into a ditch or crossed the median. 6! What is wrong with people? This isn’t rocket science, as my husband says, it’s just understanding the co-efficient of friction. When he said that I had about the same reaction you likely just did, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, “The coefficient of friction depends on the objects that are causing friction. The value is usually between 0 and 1 but can be greater than 1. A value of 0 means there is no friction at all between the objects.”  In this case the objects are the rubber tires on your car, and the ice on the road. Rubber on dry asphalt has a value of 0.7, and rubber on ice has a value of 0.15, meaning there is a lot less friction, i.e. no flipping ability to stop when it’s icy out! (Here ends your physics lesson for the day.)

I think what seems so odd, is that this is normally what we see in the first weeks of winter, not in the last gasps of it. By this time we’re typically have learned to play nice on the winter roads, and not act like grade school brats. I do get it; we’re all impatient for spring. I’ve ordered my tomato plant seeds and am already planning for getting those started, and am trialing landscaping software so that I can start planning some new areas in our yard as well. But I want to be alive and healthy to enjoy those things. I’m chomping at the bit to get flowers on my patio again this year, and last year for my birthday hubby bought me a hammock. This year I’m getting a stand for it, and I can’t wait to just lay there with a good book, a glass of wine and chill out. If you kill me, and deprive me of those pleasures, I will seriously haunt you and your family for eternity.

Crack Goes the House!

It’s been a weird couple of days here in the Midwest, with the coldest temperatures and wind chills in memory testing even the heartiest of souls. “Stay inside!” the meteorologists all implored. “Don’t go anywhere unless you absolutely must!” Well alrighty then, all good Minnesotans replied, as we essentially shut down our state for about 40 hours. Starting last week Tuesday afternoon, as the mercury fell and wind chills began hitting -30 to -40 degree below zero (yes, you’re reading that correctly),  businesses closed and sent employees home, posting notices on websites and Facebook pages that they would’t reopen until Thursday morning. Schoolchildren got another winter day off from school as parents who were considered essential workers and didn’t get to stay home from work scrambled to make arrangements for what to do with their kids. School bus drivers in rural areas breathed a sigh of relief that they were given one less white knuckle driving day with high winds and poor visibility.

If you’ve never experienced this bone biting cold, consider yourself lucky. Going out to get the garbage can is an adventure, necessitating multiple layers of fleece, wool, down and other protective gear. I take care of my neighbor’s dogs several days a week, letting them out midday, and I have to selfishly say getting texts from them saying they were working from home this week and there wasn’t a need for me to run over was a gift!

There is a really interesting phenomenon that happens with temperature drops, something my husband and I discovered a few years ago. It seems to only happen when the temperature get below about -20, so it’s infrequent, and if you’ve never had this happen before, it can scare the daylights, or in our case nightlights, out of you. The first time it happened, it was probably around midnight, and we’d just been asleep a short time when there was this loud “crack”! that startled us both out of sleep. Asking each other “did you hear that?” and “what the hell?” we got up, looked around and found nothing. A short while later it happend again…and again. About a half dozen times during the night, scaring us half to death each time. It was so loud, if you can imagine someone throwing a baseball at the side of your house, that’s about how it sounded. At the time we didn’t have any idea what it was.

Since then, I’ve learned that it’s something that happens when it gets very cold in winter.

From an article at CBS Local:

Joe Nelson owns Twin City Home Remodeling. He says our houses are made of all different materials — steel, concrete, vinyl – and all of these materials expands and contract as the temperatures change.

Huge temperature drop-offs like we’ve seen recently cause all those materials to contract.

“When they rub up against each other or misplace, they’re going to pop,” Nelson said.

Well, this week with the dropping temps it happened again. Fortunately it was during the day this time, but startling nonetheless.

I also read that one of the major fuel suppliers in the state had so much difficulty keeping up with the demand for natural gas that they had to ask customers all over the state to reduce consumption and keep their homes at 63 degrees this week. Folks, that’s NOT very warm. To remain comfortable at that temperature, you’ll need sweaters, blankets, warm socks and slippers and even then you might be chilled. But we Minnesotans are tough and hearty, and we do what we must. So we lower our thermostats, and bundle up a bit more. It’s a darn good thing we did, too, because the wind chill was as cold as I’ve seen it since I was much, much younger. Here’s how cold:

IMG_2904Note that the actual temperature was probably ONLY about -32 degrees. It just felt like -52 with the wind chills. Just. Brrrr. What’s really bizarre was that the next day was  24 degrees. Above zero. That’s a 50 degree swing in two days, and wow, it hit 36 on Sunday!

I also heard that the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin declared that he thinks we’re getting soft (the country, not necessarily Minnesota) because “school districts were being too “soft” on kids when they canceled classes due to chilly weather.” He later said he was being only “slightly facetious”. Well @govmattbevin, feel free to join us up here any time in January, in your bermuda shorts and flip flops, since you seem to think that it’s not so very cold. Personally, I think you spoke on a topic that you have little to no knowledge on. But I’m sure someone here could take you ice fishing (without an ice house!), teach you about the great outdoors in Minnesota in winter. We’ll see who’s soft. I’m guessing Governer Bevin lasts less than the time it takes a fish to bite.

 

Selling on eBay, or How to Make Some Pocket Change

About a year ago, I was looking at some of the stuff we had laying around the house that didn’t sell after a garage sale. I was thinking to myself what a metric crap-ton of work holding a garage sale is, and surely there must be an easier way to get rid of stuff and still make money at it, when it dawned on me…

 Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 8.42.20 AM.png

 

I started doing a bit of research, and since then have sold quite a few things on the site. I didn’t find a lot of helpful info on eBay’s site, nor did I stumble on a blog like this one so much of what I’ve learned has been through trial and error. So I thought I’d put down some of my lessons learned, and hopefully a few folks will find them helpful.

  1. Do Your Homework on Pricing. When I say this, I absolutely DO NOT mean just find out what items like yours are listed for. You need to find items that are a) identical to yours (or as close to it as possible),  b) compare what condition they are in, c) check the box on the left side of the page that says SOLD and d) be aware if the seller offered free shipping or not. Why are all of these important? Well, first you need to compare like to like, and find out if the site is oversaturated with items like yours. If so, you might have a tougher time selling. And it really doesn’t matter if someone is asking $49.95 for something just like yours, when all the others are selling for $15.00, and they’re in better condition than the item you have, or if everyone else offered free shipping. These are things you’ll need to factor into setting your price point.
  2. Be Honest With Yourself (And Your Buyers) About the Condition of the Item. If everyone else is selling something that is in an original box, and yours isn’t, you won’t get the same price. The same goes for scratches, tears, chips, etc.
  3. Take Excellent Photographs. For the love of God, I can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen people put items up for sale with out of focus photos. Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 8.20.21 AMYou can see an example of one on the right that I copied from eBay (with all apologies to the photo owner). What’s that supposed to show me? The background competes with the item, so that’s the first problem, and the camera focused on the background so the watch is blurred. If I’m going to ask a complete and total stranger to put their faith in me, and buy something they can only see in photos, the least I can do is take decent ones for them to see what they are getting. What works best for me, is that I set up a small area in my house when I’m getting things ready for sale, and depending on what they are, or how much detail is needed, I might even set up some studio type lighting or put a macro lens and ring flash on my camera so that I can take really good close ups. Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 8.26.26 AM                             Here is one of mine:  Notice how you can see all the detail on the back of the watch, including that there are minimal scractches?  I realize not everyone has the capabilities for the same set up I do, but everyone should be able to find a way to take a photo that is sharp and clear. Also, remember to take pictures from different perspectives: front and back, sides, underside, etc. Show brand names, model numbers, anything that shows specifics about your item.
  4. Give Details in the Description. Tell folks what you’re selling – provide sizes, measurements, colors, even year it was made. I bought an inexpensive digital calipers from Harbor Freight, and have used that to measure things like case depth and lug width on watches.  Think about what makes your item different or stand out, and include that in the listing.
  5. Consider Shipping Options. Are you offering free shipping? If so, that means you’re paying the postage for the item, which means depending on which option you select for shipping for them could be costly. I knew I wasn’t going to do this full time, and was only going to sell a little bit, so free shipping wasn’t a good option for me. I elected to have my buyers pay, but I offer them 2 options. The first is USPS Parcel Select, which is the cheapest, and the second is UPS Ground. In order to do this, however, you need to have your item pre-packaged and weighed BEFORE you list it for sale. I’m lucky in that my husband has access to boxes in a wide variety of sizes that would be otherwise tossed out, so we recycle them for shipping. He also has access to bubble wrap that would be recycled as well. Both of those have allowed us to not have to purchase shipping containers. If you do, you either need to know that cuts into what you make on your sales, or you’ll have to estimate those costs and add to the sale of your item as a fee. NOTE: When I weigh my items, I just use a kitchen/food scale. I enter the weight into the eBay listing tool as a range, so if something weighs 2 lb 4 oz, I enter it as 2-3 lb. You also need to know the dimensions of your box as you’ll have to put that in as well. If you don’t, the system puts in a default and if your item is larger, then you’ll eat the cost when you get to the post office.
  6. Auction vs Buy It Now. It depends. I go back and forth, and it just depends on what other items like mine have been when they sold. If most were Buy It Now, then I list mine like that. If you decide to do Auction, you have several options for the length of time to leave your auction open. If you set up items as Buy It Now, and you notice they aren’t selling, you can always drop the price.
  7. Offering Returns. I generally don’t for a couple of reasons. First, I want the darn thing out of my house and don’t want it back. Second, I know that what I’ve sold will work as I have stated it will, and I know that I pack things to not break during shipping. That being said, there have been a few times I have offered it, and when I do I add a disclaimer that says “If you wish to return an item, please reach out to me directly first and let me know the reason for the return. All items must be returned in the same condition in which they were shipped out in order to receive a refund. Return shipping to be paid by buyer.” 
  8. Don’t Wait to Ship. I try to ship orders out within 24 hours of purchase, and have a 100% satisfaction rating from my buyers. They trusted me enough to buy from me and send me money, the least I can do is to ship out their purchase timely.
  9. Watch Your Messages. If you’re selling lots of things you’ll find that the 30 free listings that eBay allows you each month can go quickly, however they will periodically send out a time limited offer with additional free listings. If you don’t respond to the email fast enough to claim the offer, it’s gone. So far I haven’t figured out how to auto forward messages from my eBay inbox to my regular email provider, so I need to just log into eBay and look there.
  10. eBay vs Goodwill. Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The challenge with eBay is figuring out when to stop relisting items that didn’t sell, and just give it to Goodwill (or some other appropriate charitable organization.) Just because it didn’t sell the first time, doesn’t mean it won’t. I just sold something after about the 4th or 5th relist…yes, I had to drop the price a few times on it, but it did finally sell. On the other hand, I have stoneware dishes that aren’t selling after 5 relists. It’s probably time to quit relisting those, take them to Goodwill and get the tax deduction instead.
  11. Documentation. I didn’t make a spreadsheet initially, and discovered that once the listing is done after a short period of time you can’t go back and find it if you wanted to copy the info you had in it, like a really clever description. So now I have everything on a spreadsheet including descriptions, and what the size and weight of the boxes are as I keep my items stored in a crawl space until they sell. It’s a lot easier to reference the spreadsheet to relist items than it is to crawl around in the crawl space. I also have a regular document that includes statements like the return items disclaimer that I can copy and paste into listings, such as a statement to link listings with similar items.

A couple of final thoughts…most of us aren’t going to get rich selling things on eBay. If you go into this thinking you will, you’ll get frustrated very quickly. What you will get is a little pocket change, and a cleaner house as you get rid of that stuff that’s been hanging around forever, for God knows what reason. Have fun with it, but stay realistic.

Things Mom Never Told You, Vol VI.

Reusing Razor Blades…

Have you ever used a single edged razor blade around the house for projects? I do all the time, from scraping my glass top stove to scraping paint off woodwork, and in the past I’ve used a razor until it seems dull, then tucked it into the plastic container it came in, on the “dispose” side until it was full and then tossed it. But I got to thinking, “isn’t that a waste? Can’t I sharpen them?” Guess what, it turns out you can! IMG_2542Get a blade sharpening kit, or if you already have a whetstone then get honing oil. You can see in the photo to the left, my whetstone with oil on it after I had sharpened a few blades along with my razor blade collection. (I managed to pull them back out of the plastic container with a tweezers. Carefully.)

After putting some oil on the stone I took the blade, and swirled it on the stone in the oil a bit, then held the blade at about a 20-30 degree angle, and pulled it backwards against the stone.IMG_2543 In the photo to the right, that would be pulling the blade from right to left. I did that on each side about 6-8 times, then wiped off the oil and  tested it by pulling it against the edge of a piece of paper. After all were sharpened, I put them back in the storage container, and labeled it so I knew they were sharpened but not new.  Now I’m all set with 14 freshly sharpened blades, and all it took was a kit we already had, and maybe 30 minutes to do all of them. And if you’re really in a rush, you can just pull them against some sandpaper. I used some 100 grit, that worked pretty well too.

Sparkling Porcelain…

Ever wondered how to get stains out of the toilet bowl, especially those under the rim? Pumice stones are apparently an insider trick of the housecleaning trade, according to the folks at Real Simple Magazine, who compiled a great list of 12 Things Only Professional Cleaners Know.  I’ve been using these for a while now, and they really do get the nasty stains out of the bowl, making it sparkling white again. Just make sure you get the stone wet first, or you can scratch the bowl. The article has some other really helpful tricks, well worth a read.

Winter Over Plants…

If you’re like me, you have plants that move from outside to inside over the winter, and of course that means a big adjustment for those poor plants in terms of available sunlight. Even if you have plants that stay inside year round, as we move through the months into winter, there is less available sunlight, and plants can get starved for sun (and really, who can’t, for the love of Pete, which is a different issue that can be solved with a plane ticket to Key West, but I digress). After a few weeks, plants can start to look pretty pathetic. An easy solution is to get grow lights for them, and the ones that are out now are so much better than the old ones that we used to use. Back in the day we used to get cool and warm fluorescent lights, which would cover the spectrum of light wavelengths needed to best simulate sunlight. Then they came up with a bulb that was in the shape of a floodlamp that was specifically for plants and had the right spectrum in one bulb. You can still get the floodlamp bulb in an LED style, which is really great and saves money, but even better you can now get one in a regular light bulb shape, which, if you’re geeky like me is known as an E26. There are a number of different brands, Feit is the one I have, which is what I’ve shown here with the green base.

fullsizeoutput_9bfd

You can see it looks like a regular light bulb, which is nice if you have some sort of directional light like one that clamps on, that you can put it into and aim it at the plant.

 

fullsizeoutput_9bfe

 

 

I took a picture of the bulb from the top (not quite centered, hence it looks slightly skewed) so you can see how they get the spectrum of both cool and warm light covered. It’s amazing what a difference it makes on my plants, and I can even keep my hibiscus blooming most of the winter with this. Add in a timer, and you’re good to go!

 

My promise: I will never share something with you that I haven’t personally tried. I won’t tell you it works if I can’t prove it. Where possible I will share photos or a video. If something is an epic fail, well I’ll tell you that too as I think that is just as valuable, even if I end up looking ridiculous doing it.

Planning for Financial Emergencies

Periodically I see articles on various news sites that have headlines with themes about saving money, and more specifically what you need to do to be prepared for the unexpected, such as the loss of your job. Most say things along similar lines: Have at least 6 months worth of salary saved up to cover expenses, and make sure you estimate medical costs, unexpected car repairs, and other things of that nature. If  you use any sort of bill paying software, such as Quicken, a tool like that can really help to make it easy to run a report quickly and simplify some of the estimating.

I suspect a lot of people don’t even think about something that I think is critically important, and none of the articles that I’ve read have really addressed it either. How many of you know what your health insurance costs each month? I’m not talking about how much is taken out of your paycheck, I’m talking about adding that to what your employer subsidizes to get the TOTAL cost, or what you would pay if you had to get your insurance through COBRA. In case you’ve never heard that term before, COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which was passed into law in 1986. According to information on the US Department of Labor website it “contains provisions giving certain former employees, retirees, spouses former spouses, and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates”. So basically if you got health insurance through your employer and lose your job, under certain conditions you can continue to get that insurance at those group rates. However, and here’s the kicker – your former employer will no longer subsidize or pay a portion of that insurance for you. Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 7.25.34 AMYou’ll need to pay all of it yourself, and if you thought you were lucky because your former employer didn’t charge you a lot for health insurance when you were working , well, you might want to be sitting down when you get that information, because that same non-subsidized health insurance is really expensive!

How expensive, you ask? At my former employer, coverage for my husband and I for health, supplemental life and dental went from $320/month to $1170/month. Think about  the implications of that for a moment…so now not only do you NOT have an income, but you get to shell out an extra $1000 or more a month for insurance. For that same high-deductible plan you had before. And if you were unlucky enough to get laid off at the end of the year, or don’t find a job right away and are still unemployed after the start of the next calendar year rolls around, your deductibles and out-of-pocket costs reset, which means that you get to start all over again meeting those too. So any money you had in that lovely HSA account can be used for the insurance or medical bills, but trust me, it will go very quickly.

If you’re confused on the difference between deductible and out-of-pocket, you’re not alone! I’ll try to explain it here, and add in a good website resource as well. Your deductible is the amount you first need to pay before your insurer will start to help you with what you owe toward bills. After that, the insurer will pay part, and you’ll pay part, until you hit your out-of-pocket maximum, at which point the insurer pays all of it. Where it can get confusing is adding in family members. If you have just two people insured, you can have one meet both the deductible and their out of pocket maximum, but the other person is still paying the full amount for everything because they haven’t yet met THEIR deductible.  If you have more than two people by adding in children, then those deductibles still need to be met but at least the out-of-pocket maximums are cumulative toward the family out-of-pocket maximum. Yikes! I know that our insurer has a really nice graphic on the website showing where we were at all times with meeting deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, and I would expect most others do as well. MoneyUnder30 has a good page on their website that can help with understanding those and other health insurance terms.

So yes, think about your monthly expenses, but educate yourself too on what your insurance will cost you if you’re not working. It’s eye-opening, and probably far more expensive than you think. Even routine annual checkups can add up when you start adding in lab tests and x-rays, since most visits are “cafeteria” type, meaning each thing done gets a charge. For those with high deductible plans, here are some AVERAGE costs that will wipe out small to medium savings:

Office visits for physicals…$180-240

Adult office visit for illness…$130-180

Child office visit for illness $115-160

Adult ER visit (visit only, doesn’t include labs, x-rays, etc) $580-700

Child ER visit (visit only, doesn’t include labs, x-rays, etc)  $510-635

Colonoscopies…$900

Mammograms…$120

Shingles vaccinations…$250

Chest xray…$370

Blood count tests…$5-15

Flu shot…$40

As you can see, start adding in labs, x-rays, etc, and it doesn’t take much before things add up. Add in a couple of sick kids, or sports injuries and physical therapy and the money is gone.

Costs may vary by region of the country, insurer, and contracts negotiated, among other things.  The prices listed above came from a couple of sources, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and CostHelper.com. You can probably find cost estimators at your insurer as well.

So besides planning for the rent or mortgage, the car payment, gas, utilities, food, clothes, the pets, school events, and all that other stuff, don’t forget to educate yourself about the true costs of ALL of your healthcare costs.

For more information on COBRA, go to the Department of Labor website.

PS, preventing illness is still a great idea and saves money! It’s flu season, and flu shots are cheap and readily available. Some county health departments will do them for free, I’m seeing Costco/CVS offering for around $20, Walgreens and Target for $40. If  insurance covers medication, your flu shot might be covered too. Don’t forget to get yours!

 

Spoooook-takular Delights

My husband is rather clever and creative, and when it comes to Halloween has a little bit of a kid left in him. Last year he started building a nifty little decoration, and this year he was able to get it completed.  I can’t wait until it’s dark tonight, and the kiddos start coming around and see this:

 

Next year I may try to paint a backdrop of a ship’s deck for it too, and add one of those fog machines. Maybe some old spooky music too!

Of course we also have a talking pirate skeleton with a parrot on it’s shoulder, one that has a sensor that make it talk when someone walks by. It scares the devil out of the little ones, and I know at least one kid will leave our front step crying tonight. Then they’ll just be getting over that trauma, and go to the next door neighbor’s where a giant spider will leap out at them. Maybe we ought to be handing out kleenex and diapers with the candy. Between 75 and 85 kids will be here soon, and at least one will bawl.

Isn’t Halloween great?

Expectations vs. Reality

While my husband was on a camping trip this summer with some guys, I decided I would make good use of the time and paint another room in our house. We moved in here 6 years ago, and hadn’t finished repainting all the rooms yet, so it was (way) past time to tackle another room. This year I started in the master bedroom, which was painted in 2 shades of blue…medium dusty blue and dark dusty blue, 2 walls opposite each other were one color, and the other 2 walls the other color. Ugh.fullsizeoutput_9b7d

So I started my prep work, patching holes, and I felt like I went through about a half gallon of spackling compound covering up all the dings and dents from the prior owners, not to mention the screw pops in the sheet rock as well as a couple of bad spots left where we took a mounting bracket for a TV off the wall. The TV bracket had adhered to the paint which was really unexpected, given that the paint was long cured by the time we moved in and put up that bracket. So when we took it off it started giving us some trouble then suddenly came off with a big r-r-r-i-i-p-p and we just stood there with that look of “oh, crap” on our faces. I knew right then I was in for hours of patching and sanding, and I wasn’t disappointed. I can’t tell you how many times I redid that spot before I was satisfied.

Now unless you’re a professional painter, I’m going to say that you probably can’t do a good job of painting a room without one really essential thing: painter’s tape. Some folks know it as “blue painter’s tape” and others as “frog tape” but it all does the same thing: when applied correctly (or at all) it will keep the woodwork from getting paint on it. By now you can probably guess where I’m going, but honestly it was WAY worse than you can imagine. Because after the patching is done, normally you think “yea! It’s time to prep and tape the woodwork”, right? Nope, not in this house, or at least, not in the normal, traditional sense. You see, the prior owners didn’t believe in painter’s tape, or they just waved it over toward the wood and prayed it landed in the right spot. That room had been painted at least 3 times in 10 years and not once had they used painter’s tape. I know this because there were 3 different colors of paint layers on the edges of the windows, doorways and baseboards and in varying amounts. Sometimes just a tiny brush mark, but in one place two layers extended for a 2-foot run! And if that wasn’t bad enough, they roller painted over outlets and the cold air return as well – both the wall plate AND the actual outlet! I mean come on, how hard is it to remove a wall plate and slap tape on an outlet?

So there I knelt, squatted, stood and climbed up and down a ladder for 2 days, with a razor blade, scraping wood. I tried everything I could think of to help loosen the paint but in the end it just seemed simplest to do old-fashioned scraping and try not to ruin the woodwork. Finally, it was as good as I could get it, and then out came the Frog Tape. Everywhere, there was green tape. Take that, prior homeowner! About the only place I didn’t tape was along the ceiling edge but I’ve been taught how to cut in the paint along an edge, and was planning to repaint the ceiling when I was done with the walls anyway, for two reasons. One, it had never been done in the 17 years since the house was built and two, guess where else they got medium and dark blue paint? (But I DID tape off the walls when I did the ceiling. I’m good, but not perfect!)

Finally, it was time to paint, and the walls and ceiling look fantastic. You don’t realize how dingy your ceilings are until you paint them bright white. (Here’s a helpful tip: Glidden makes a wonderful ceiling paint that goes on pink, but dries white so that you can see where you’ve painted, as that can be difficult with white on white ceilings. I love that stuff!) I also love my 5 brand spankin’ new outlets, which at just over $2 each for the outlet and wall plate combined seemed money well spent so that I didn’t have to spend time scraping paint off the old ones, and my new cold air return. (Follow up note: I later found a multipack of outlets at our local big box retailer, 10 for under $4, plus 10 wall plates for under $2!)

IMG_2544I don’t get it…what the heck is so hard about taking 20 minutes to put some painter’s tape around woodwork? Are you really that flippin’ lazy? I guess the answer is “yes” because our entire house is like that, the one exception being our upstairs hallway, and that’s only because it’s never been painted and is still only primed. (I’m actually kind of excited to paint that area next.) I used to think that people would take a bit more care of their homes. I mean good grief; you pay this much money for something, why wouldn’t you fix it up right? But the reality is that people don’t take care of things, don’t do even basic maintenance, like changing furnace filters, cleaning lint out of the dryer trap or stop their kids from writing on closet walls. I guess I need to lower my expectations, because clearly my reality doesn’t match theirs. But at least the room looks wonderful, and the ceilings have only white ceiling paint on them now. Now on to the hallway and then the living room/dining room/kitchen, which is really a great room. THAT’s going to be a project and then some!

The Child in Me

It’s summer in Minnesota, or as we like to call it, the season of construction, mosquitos and humidity. This year I’m adding “thunderstorms” to that list, as it seems we’ve had more than the usual number of them for some reason. A number of our rivers had flood warnings associated with them, and as I am typing this I looked at the radar, and storms are setting up already today and it’s only 7:00 in the morning. Of course all the rain has provided a rich source of breeding grounds for even more mosquitos. That in turn, means more visits from the DNR as they fly overhead with the helicopter loaded with mosquito bomb pellets. I swear when they come over the house and I feel the cavitation from the rotors, it’s all I can do not to yell, “hit the deck!” and fall to the floor.

I am fortunate enough to be able to be a surrogate mom for my next door neighbor’s dogs, at least for the time being, and let them out during the day, and the other day when I went over there, it was one of those lovely rainy days out. So I put on a rain jacket and headed out, and on my way back I thought, “I’m going to take a quick walk. What’s the worst thing that will happen?  I have on sandals that can get wet, so no problem there. My Capri jeans will get wet. So what? I won’t melt.” So off I went.

I’d forgotten how much fun it was to take a walk in a warm rain. I loved the sound of the raindrops on my hood, on the leaves on the trees. It was so unbelievably peaceful and calming. After I’d been walking a bit, I noticed that I’d started stepping less and shuffling my feet more (sorry Dad, I know you hated it when I did that and I can still hear you say “pick up your feet”!). It didn’t take long before I was kicking up small water puddles, and from there I worked my way up to bigger ones. It got more and more fun, and soon I was soaked above my knees.

When was the last time you went puddle stomping?  There is a reason toddlers and children do it, there really is something truly freeing about it.

IMG_1390

Many thanks to my great neighbor who allowed me to take this photo, and to her awesome daughter for playing along!

I almost put my hood down and tipped my head back letting the rain run on my face – cue the dramatic music here – as I stretched out my arms and twirled in a circle – but I figured if I did that, the next thing I’d see was the men in white coats with a straightjacket. As Robert Fulgham said in “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, you can’t explain everything you do to everybody, you know. So I did the big Hollywood movie twirl in my mind but continued the puddle stomping throughout my walk, until my rubber sandals were so wet they squeaked and I had wrinkly toes.

If you have the chance to go puddle stomping, unleash your inner child and go for it. It’s a lot of fun, and you’ll feel great afterwards. Your stress levels will drop and you’ll find your shoulders aren’t up by your earlobes anymore, and your mind will be clearer. That’s all good, no matter what age you are.